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Friday, June 22, 2018

COUSINS

I started a tradition last year of having all 5 grandkids with us for one week (Monday-Friday) and going somewhere and doing some special things with them.  They really love each other and enjoy each other's company.  But, they don't get to spend much time together. So, I thought I would side-step the busy schedules of each family and get "the cousins" together.  I really wish I would have started this much, much sooner.  Mr. W thought I had lost my mind when I told him that I wanted to do this last year! After it was over, he agreed that it needed to become a yearly trip.

So, the dates for our fun "cousin time" was June 11-June 15.  However, Daughter remarried on June 7th and went on a honeymoon, so we had her 2 starting June 7th.  Of course, they were very anxious for their cousins to be with us and finally, the day before we were to leave, the cousins showed up.

We checked into Jamaica Beach RV Resort in Galveston, TX on June 11th.  Jamaica Beach RV is a great place to be.  They have 2 swimming pools, a splash pad, 2 hot tubs and have recently completed a Lazy River.  The Lazy River is awesome.  It is long enough to make you feel like you have made a good trek around and it is just deep enough that while in a tube, your feet don't drag the bottom. They have a miniature golf course.  It is literally across the street from a good stretch of beach.  They have 3 laundry rooms, plenty of free DVDs to check out, and an on-site pizza place.  The staff there is very eager to please also. I would highly recommend this park.

We arrived Monday afternoon and the kids, along with me, hit the Lazy River.  The weather has been crazy hot.  The water was very refreshing.  Tuesday morning, we headed to the Pleasure Pier.  This is a pier out over the Gulf with rides and arcade games. None of the kids had been there.  We got there when it opened and until about 2:00, there were very few people there.  We could ride a ride and just stay on it and ride again and again if we wanted.  By about 2:00, there were enough people that we had to get off the rides and get back in line.  We would either get back on because the line was almost non-existent, or we might have to wait through one ride.  It was awesome.








We used the log ride to keep cool!



Wednesday, we headed to Schlitterbahn.  My friend, Terri, and her 2 DILs and 8 grandchildren met us there.  We had a ton of fun.  The kids had a lot of freedom through the park which they totally loved. One nice thing about Schlitterbahn is they let you bring in ice chests, food, drinks, etc.  I didn't get any pics because I couldn't keep up with the kids.  When you get freedom to not be with an adult all day, you make sure you move quick enough to stay away from the adults!  Mr. W and I did run into 2 of the kids and they wanted us to ride a ride with them and of course we did. Everyone was really tired by about 3:00, so we left. 

Thursday was beach day.  Mr. W was in his element.  He brought his surfboard hoping that at least one of his grandchildren would spark an interest in surfing.  Well, we can mark Boy-child off the list, but ALL of his granddaughters wanted to learn how to stand up on the board and ride the wave.








Friday was check-out day.  Daughter's two girls were going to their Dad's for the weekend. So, Son's 3 kids were with us until the following Wednesday.  We decided to take them to "the lake", get the boat out and do a little tubing!







The weather turned ugly, which is not good when you are wanting to tube and ski.  We ended up going to the movies and seeing The Incredibles 2.  Good movie!  By Wednesday, they were ready to go home and I was t-i-r-e-d!

The oldest 2 grandchildren are twins and they turned 13 this year.  Boy-child really didn't want to come with us this year, but he did.  This may have been my last year to have them come with us because they won't want to.  That is why I wish I would have started this earlier.  Maybe I'll get at least one more year.  We will see.  But, I can tell you this, the kids had a GREAT time.  There is nothing better than cousin time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A FEW LAST THINGS FROM CALIFORNIA

When we went to see the Hearts castle, we stayed in Paso Robles at a park named Wine Country RV.  It was a very nice park with all concrete pads and great amenities.  The sites are very close together.  Everything was spotless around the park and the staff was very friendly. There is even a winery on-site and you can do wine tastings there. We stayed Passport America which is 50% off the regular price and we still paid $40 a night!  We don't normally pay that much, but most of the parks in Paso Robles were a little pricey.

One thing about the area, it is FULL of wineries.  It is like a mini Nappa without all the traffic. There were wineries that I have heard of and had their wine before and there were wineries that I had not heard of.  The staff at the park told us which winery had a beautiful sunset, which winery was the "party" winery, and which winery had the best wine at the best prices.  There was a "west" wine trail and an "east" wine trail.  The park even offered a wine tour that included food, a seat on the van (so you have a driver), and 5 tastings.  Believe me when I say there were MANY wineries.  I think there were around 20 on each wine trail.  Of the ones I read about, there were about 15 that offered "buy one tasting, get one free." They also sell the local wines from all these wineries at the local Albertson's.  So, what you pass up at the winery, you can purchase there.

On the day we went to Big Sur, we went back through Monterrey. Mr. W and I had gone to Monterrey briefly when we visited California on a short fly in visit several years ago. We had had a great time there and wanted to revisit. We went to The Wharf area for lunch.  We didn't go to the tourist Wharf, we went to the commercial Wharf.  We had been told that all the locals went to a place called the Sand Bar.  Well, when you hear where the locals go, you gotta go!  Man, we were sorry.  The food was not good and it was way over priced.  So, you have been warned.  Do NOT go to The Sand Bar. 

We went over to the tourist Wharf after lunch and walked through the little shops.  There was a shop there that offered "water massages".  You lay in a bed that looks like a tanning bed.  It is lined inside with a heavy plastic that has water inside.  You climb in the bed (you only take off your shoes) and they turn it on.  The water pulsates up and down your body which gives you a "massage".  You can do 10 minutes, 15 minutes, or 30 minutes.  Terri and I did it for 15 minutes.  It was awesome. 

After The Wharf, we headed over to Cannery Row, and that is a fun place too. Go to both places if you are ever in the area.

OK, last but not least, we bought a new RV! Who knew?  We had our Blackwood fifth wheel since November 2012.  We started living in it in July 2013.  So, we had owned it about 5 1/2 years and we were starting to have some major issues with it.  Mr. W had been working on it and worrying over it for about a year.  The night before we left on this trip, he noticed a crack in the gel coat right above one of the slides. We had already been looking at fifth wheels, trying to decide what we wanted to do.  As we traveled across the country, the crack was starting to move and get larger.  We had looked online at the inventory at a dealership in California and decided we would go check it out while we were close.  We did, we bought, we moved our stuff, and we now have a new traveling home.

We bought a new 2017 Redwood.  It is 39 feet long.  It has a residential refrigerator (Mr. W didn't want this, I did), a large pantry, a fireplace, slow rise shades, a convection microwave, king size bed, 3 air conditioners/2 heat pumps, and full body paint.  It has a lot of other stuff too, but those are the ones most people ask me about.

So, now I am headed back to Texas to license and register my new home and see my kids and grandkids.  California has some beautiful land and coastline.  The buying of the new trailer cut our trip short and so we missed some things/places that were in our original plan.  I guess that means another trip to California in the future.




Saturday, May 5, 2018

HEARST CASTLE

One of the things high on my list to do/see on this trip was Hearst Castle.  I've heard about it and I love the history of these grand old houses.  I've visited several and it always amazes me the opulence of these grounds and buildings and to hear the history of why they wanted certain things included in the design of their homes. We did the tour of the main rooms which is the one recommended for first time visitors.  They have several tours available.  You can tour the 3 guest houses, the upper rooms, the servants quarters/rooms (I think), and an evening tour where you dress in the period wardrobe and tour as if you were guest there.

Hearst Castle is located near the unincorporated community of San Simeon, California, approximately 250 miles from both Los Angeles and San Francisco. William Randolph Hearst's father, George Hearst, originally purchased the land in 1865. The younger Hearst grew fond of this site over many childhood family camping trips. He inherited the ranch, which had grown to 250,000 acres  and 14 miles of coastline, from his mother Phoebe Hearst in 1919. Hearst was often quoted as saying he would rather spend a month here than anywhere else in the world.

Hearst first approached American architect Julia Morgan with ideas for a new project in April 1919, shortly after he took ownership. Hearst's original idea was to build a bungalow, according to a draftsman who worked in Morgan's office who recounted Hearst's words from the initial meeting:
I would like to build something upon the hill at San Simeon. I get tired of going up there and camping in tents. I'm getting a little too old for that. I'd like to get something that would be a little more comfortable.
After approximately one month of discussion, Hearst's original idea for a modest dwelling swelled to grand proportions. Hearst Castle featured 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres  of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world's largest private zoo.

One highlight of the estate is the outdoor Neptune Pool, located near the edge of the hilltop, which offers an expansive vista of the mountains, ocean and the main house. Due to drought conditions and leaks in the pool, it is now drained.  The Neptune Pool patio features an ancient Roman temple front, transported wholesale from Europe and reconstructed at the site. Hearst was an inveterate tinkerer, and would tear down structures and rebuild them on a whim. For example, the Neptune Pool was rebuilt three times before Hearst was satisfied. As a consequence of Hearst's persistent design changes, the estate was never completed in his lifetime. Hearst died in 1951 and the castle became a California State Park in 1954 when the Hearst Corporation donated it to the state park system.

Neptune Pool

Another highlight of the estate, in my opinion, is the indoor pool located under the tennis courts. I can't begin to describe it or even capture how beautiful and awesome this pool is.  




I always say that how good your tour is depends on your docent.  The lady who did our tour was excellent.  She was very knowledgeable about Hearst's life, the history of the castle, and the goings on at the castle.  When you were invited to what Hearst referred to as "the ranch", you were pretty much free to do whatever you wanted during the day. The only thing you were required to do was have dinner with Hearst and the other guests and to watch a movie in the theater after dinner.  

After the tour, we drove a short distance and had lunch on the beach and then drove to a beach where the elephant seals hang out.  I have never seen so many in one place in my life! They are in molting season, which means they are shedding the top layer of their skin. It was a crazy sight to see all of them along the beach.



All in all it was a great day.  I highly recommend a visit to Hearst Castle.










Friday, May 4, 2018

BIG SUR

One of the things Mr. W wanted to do on this trip was drive the coast through Big Sur. We moved from Yosemite Lakes RV to another Thousand Trails park in San Benito.  The park was a nice, secluded park.  Verizon worked most of the time.  AT&T did not.  You can buy Wi-Fi at your site for $10 for 4 days and it worked great.  We did make a few calls and sent several texts through the wi-fi with no actual cell service. The staff is very friendly.  They do, however, require you to show your registration and insurance coverage on your vehicle and your RV before you can enter the park. Never had that before.  It is a great park if you want to just get away from it all and relax.  It is a true "camp" ground.

We drove from there to get on Highway 1 and drive the coast.  This part of the California coast is awesome.  They do have some road construction going on (part of the road was totally closed because of a rockslide), but it wasn't bad.  The cliffs going out to the edge of the beach, the wildflowers, the water breaking on the rocks, all of it was gorgeous. 





The section of Highway 1 running through Big Sur is widely considered as one of the most scenic.  driving routes in the United States, if not the world. No billboards or advertisements are permitted along the highway and signage for businesses must be modestly scaled and of a rural nature conforming to the Big Sur region. The state of California designated the 72 miles section of the highway from Cambria to Carmel Highlands as the first Scenic Highway in 1965.In 1966 first lady Lady Bird Johnson led the official scenic road designation ceremony at Bixby Creek Bridge. In 1996, the road became one of the first designated by the federal government as an "All American Road" under the National Scenic Byways Program.


The Bixby Creek Bridge
Due to its beauty, the road during summer vacation periods and on holiday weekends is often crowded and traffic is slow. Most of the highway is so narrow and the sides so steep that there's no shoulder, limited turnouts, and no passing lanes.
Most of the 4 to 5 million tourists who currently visit Big Sur each year never leave Highway 1, because the adjacent Santa Lucia Range is one of the largest roadless areas near a coast in the entire United States. The highway winds along the western flank of the mountains mostly within sight of the Pacific Ocean, varying from near sea level up to a thousand-foot sheer drop to the water. 
It is considered to be one of the top 10 motorcycle rides in the United States.






McWay Falls 



Despite and because of its popularity, the region is heavily protected to preserve the rural and natural character of the land. The Big Sur Local Coastal Plan, approved by Monterey County Supervisors in 1981, states the region is meant to be an experience that visitors transit through, not a destination. For that reason, development of all kinds is severely restricted. Gorgeous area that I hope always stays underdeveloped.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

First of all, let me say, we have been without cell service and internet service for 2 weeks!  It is weird how at first, we were freaking out.  It was like how in the world are we going to manage without cell service, internet service, and television.  By the end of the 2 weeks, we had pretty much learned how to survive without those things.

We stayed at Yosemite Lakes campground.  It is a Thousand Trails park, but it also has retail sites.  It is a pretty park.  It has quite a few sites that are right on the river.  However, there was a flood in the area that pretty much wiped those out.  They have been working on restoring the area and those sites should be open in the next week or two.  The only sites that were open were 30 amp sites.  Most of the newer RVs are 50 amp, so that was an adjustment too. We didn't have to worry too much about a/c because most of the time we were there, it was cold.  There was even a day of snow! The park closed one afternoon because of it.  I think the park received 6-8 inches of snow.  We received about 4 inches at the campground. For someone from H-town in Texas, snow is always amazing and mesmerizing to me.




Our friends, Keith and Olivia, flew in the first weekend we were there.  When you only have a few days, you hit the ground running and that's exactly what Keith and Olivia did.  They managed to get a cabin at the campground so that worked out perfectly.

We immediately went on a hike, visited the Visitor Center, took another short hike, and came back and collapsed! The next day, Keith and Mr. W went to the top of Yosemite Falls.  The trail is difficult and it is up, up, up.  They were gone from 8:00 until 6:00.  When they returned, Keith referred to Mr. W as a "mountain goat".  So, now he has a new nickname! The last day they were here, we went on a couple more hikes and just enjoyed each other's company.  We always have fun with them.




Me and Olivia   


Keith and Olivia

We made several more trips into the park.  We took several more hikes.  We went to the Historic Majestic Hotel and had lunch.  We rode the shuttle to avoid trying to find a parking spot. We looked for animals. We only saw deer. Yosemite is a park of waterfalls and we saw MANY beautiful waterfalls.  The park has done a great job of making most of the trails beautiful.  Not necessarily easy, but beautiful!





We came at this time of the year to beat the crowds. Little did we know that quite a bit of the park is still closed because of snow and ice.  Tioga Road is closed.  Glacier Point is closed.  Merced Grove is closed. One of the hikes that Mr. W wanted to do wasn't available to do.  Had we done our homework and known this, we might would have visited in May instead of April.  I cannot imagine how crowded this place gets in the summer.  There is not very much parking and it got crowded on good weather days and on the weekends now.  I think the next time I visit, I will visit in September or maybe October.

It is one of the most beautiful National Parks that I have ever seen.  I would recommend it to everyone.  You owe it to yourself to visit here at least once in your life.  I love Yosemite!



Me and my friend Lauree


The Historic Majestic Hotel